Google Begins Rolling Out COVID-19 Relief Ad Credits. Here’s How to Check If You Got Them.

Back in March, Google announced plans to provide advertising credits to small and medium-sized businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, Google started granting these ad credits to eligible accounts.

Who was eligible for these credits?

In order to have qualified for these credits, your Google Ads account must have met the following criteria:

  • have actively advertised with a Google Ads account for 10 out of 12 months in 2019
  • have actively advertised on Google Ads in January and/or February of this year

You do not have to be advertising directly with Google. Firms who are advertising through a third-party partner are also eligible to receive these credits.

How do I know if I have a credit?

To see if you have received the credit, all you have to do is log into your Google Ads account. There will be a banner at the top that displays the credit amount that has been granted.

Another way to check whether you have received the credits is by accessing the Promotions section of your account. You can access it by going to Tools & Settings > Billing > Promotions.

From there, you will be able to see the amount, the date it was applied, and the amount that has been used so far.

Credit amounts will vary. The maximum amount an account can receive is $1000. These credits can be used through December 31, 2020. After that, any unused credits will be removed from your account.

View Google’s support documentation for more information about the ad credit rollout.

Endnote: and if your agency won’t give you access to any of this…chalk that up to yet another thing they don’t want you to see in what should be your account.

Study: Google Ads Costs Increase by 42% during COVID Crisis

The massive shifts in consumer behavior combined with attorneys carefully extending their cash flow window has created a seismic shift in the economics of Google’s already competitive PPC advertising market.  Mockingbird took a deep dive into the performance (carefully defined…. keep reading) of a random sample of 50 our our PPC clients to ascertain just how this has impacted the market.  The net result:

A 42% increase in average cost per inquiry; although this is heavily colored by practice area and geography and individual firm strategies.

Methodology

Given the massive flux in the market, it’s impossible to isolate any given variables for a truly scientific study – there are simple too many exogenous variables impacting any given campaign.  In addition, Mockingbird has been very hands on during the COVID Crisis, especially with our PPC campaigns – adjusting models to (try) to fit the changing dynamics of the market along with our lawyers’ individual business reality.  Some clients added campaigns to capture marketshare, others pulled back completely to preserve cash flow.  Taking into account all of these moving parts, the average overall cost per inquiry across the legal advertisers who stayed in the market between February and the end of April increased by 42%. Monthly campaign budgets ranged from $700 to over $100K. We looked at the first two weeks of February as a pre-COVID benchmark and compared it to the last 14 days (ending yesterday).  While we looked at a variety of different metrics the only one that really matters is cost per inquiry – and inquiries defined by a (first time) phone call, text, chat or form fill to an attorney.

Sidebar:  Branded Advertising and Devious Marketing Agencies

In addition, for a true analysis, we pulled out branded advertising – i.e. those campaigns that bidding on the firm’s name or the name of attorneys within the firm, because these clicks and inquiries aren’t truly incremental conversions.  Note this is one of the dirty tricks terrible agencies use to inflate their value…. i.e. counting an inquiry for “Attorney Bill Smith” as being as valuable as one for “truck accident lawyer Atlanta”.  In addition, these branded conversions are extremely cheap and are used as metrics filler by agencies to inflate their numbers.  In our study, branded campaigns generated inquiries at just over $10 per.

Oh – and if you don’t have access to your Google Ads account, you might ask yourself, “what does my agency not want me to see?  are they hiding their performance?  are they hiding my actual advertising spend?” You are a lawyer.  Be a smart marketer too. Smart lawyers don’t let their agency hide data.

Results, Conclusions and Anecdotes

While the average advertising campaign saw cost per client numbers rise by 42%, there was an extremely wide distribution of the results – with fully 17 of the study group actually seeing a decline in cost per client data.  4 of the top 5 savers in this study were mixed firms how dropped Personal Injury entirely and retained budgets with other practice areas – so again, not a purely scientific study, but my goal here is to help our clients survive, not publish studies.  Interestingly, of the top 9 advertisers who experienced the highest increase in cost per client, only two were PI – the others being in Tax, Immigration, Family and Social Security.

Surprisingly, CPC rates actually declined – prior to COVID, across all non-branded average CPCs were $15.55 and during the past two weeks, this number has actually declined to $12.80.  I suspect this is attributable to some degree to the changes in makeup of practice areas (attorneys dropping expensive PI clicks) but to some extent, is also due to competitors pulling out of the market.  So if CPC rates are dropping, why have costs actually increased?  The answer lies in a decrease in the inquiry rate, the percentage of people who contact a lawyer after clicking on the ad. People are simply contacting lawyers 14% less frequently than they were before – which means there are more tire kickers, researchers and those that frankly are concerned about the cost of hiring a lawyer in this very uncertain economic reality.

Other thoughts:

  • One PI client, flush with cash from a recent settlement aggressive expanded his spend by 6.2x – going from dabbling to a much more aggressive approach including branded display ads has a tenfold increase in inquiries at a 35% lower cost per inquiry.  His market conditions just favored this approach.
  • The practice area that was most likely to completely abandon the market post COVID were Criminal Defense attorneys – especially campaigns focused around DUI.
  • Four of the 50 advertisers actually entered the market during this period.
  • 60% of the study changed their budgets by more than 20%…. if you haven’t adjust your budgets to match the market, now might be a good time to do so. The graph below shows a very wide spectrum in the changes in budgets.

Learn More

If you’d like to dig even deeper into the data, we’re reviewing the raw data with our Mastermind group, held on Thursday afternoons.  Apply to join us here: CORONA Crisis Mastermind.

Or join me and Google’s Sherri Healy next Wednesday, May 6 at 10:00 PST for a webinar.  Register here: The Changing Economics of PPC in Legal.

Never Advertise Without This

I’ve taken over hundreds of law firms’ Google Ads accounts, and about 90% of those were set up incorrectly. This isn’t my opinion on “the right” bid strategy, or me judging an old agency’s ad copy, but a fundamental fact that the account is essentially broken.

Too many times, search campaigns have been running for months (or years) and the account FAILS the very first thing we look at. Their previous agencies boasted about delivering thousands of impressions and hundreds of clicks at such a low cost-per-click (CPC) that “it’s basically like free advertising!”


Just stop.

First of all, impressions are so inconsequential that we’ve removed that metric completely from our Google Search monthly reports. Same with CPC. Seriously. We don’t care, and you shouldn’t either.

Here’s why.

Search campaigns are designed to deliver conversions. You advertise because you want new leads. Most Google Ads accounts we’ve taken over don’t have any conversion tracking at all! Sure, your campaign generated a thousand clicks, but how did that help your business? Oh, those people might have called you? Why don’t you track, I don’t know… phone calls as conversions?

Don’t advertise without tracking what matters.

The first thing you should do before building any campaign is ask yourself what’s the point? Not in the “I give up, what’s the point of trying?” sort of way, but what’s the purpose, what are your goals, what’s important to you?

For most law firms, it’s form fills and phone calls. You need to list out all the ways people can contact your firm, as there may be more conversion paths than you originally thought:

  • Phone calls from ad extensions
  • Phone calls from your site’s main number
  • Phone calls from your site’s toll-free number
  • Form fills on your contact page
  • Form fills on your footer or sidebar
  • Form fills to download your e-book
  • Chat leads
  • Text messages
  • Newsletter signups

There are a lot of ways people can contact your firm. Track them all!

SIDE NOTE: Please don’t list any email addresses on your site. 1) Google Ads can’t track who emails you, 2) your client’s should already know how to get a hold of you, and 3) you’ll get less spam from bots.

Stop looking at impressions, clicks, and CPC as metrics for success. Instead, analyze your cost-per-acquisition (CPA). Are these conversions turning into clients? Move your focus downstream.

Of course all metrics are important to some degree. As an advertiser, I am hyper focused on CTR and CVR and QS and SIS and ETC… But as a lawyer, you don’t need to know all that. You’re advertising to generate leads, and you need to know if that’s happening at a reasonable rate.

If you advertise without conversion tracking, you might as well save yourself a couple grand and cancel now.

Google to Provide $340 Million in Ad Credits to SMBs

Recently, Google announced that they will be providing $340 million in ad credits for small and medium-sized businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes as part of their $800 million pledge toward aiding businesses and global crisis response.

Who is eligible for these credits?

These credits will be available to SMB advertisers who have been active since the beginning of 2019. This means that if you have had an existing Google Ads account since January 1, 2019, and it is active, you are eligible to receive these credits. You will not receive these credits if you create a new Google Ads account or if your account has been deactivated due to inactivity.

When will credits be available?

These credits are not immediately available. However, SMB advertisers that are eligible for credits will receive a notification in their Google Ads account in the coming months. These credits can be used anytime until the end of 2020. After that, all unused credits will be removed from the account.

 

View Google’s full statement and support documentation about the ad credits initiative for more information.

How to Use Your COVID-19 Downtime To Help Your Law Firm Grow

There’s no doubt about it, we’re all having to change our daily routines because of COVID-19. Many law firms are finding themselves with more downtime than they’re used to, and that can be very scary as a small business owner.

We’ve been talking to our clients a lot lately about whether they should be pausing all advertising, switching focus on their current marketing projects, and even helping them learn new tools and technology to help them work remotely.

Since no one knows when things will start going back to normal, here’s a list of things you, as an attorney or an employee at a law firm, can do to help your business for the long-haul:

  1. Write New Content: You know that content you’ve been meaning to write over the past six months, or even six years? Now is a great time to revisit that list and start churning out your new practice types or sub categories. If you have the flexibility to add new practice types that might help your business now (think bankruptcy, divorce, wills & trusts), create content on those and add them to your website.
  2. Audit Your Site: Not sure if you need new content? Take a look at what you have on your website. If you’ve been in business for a while, there’s a good chance you have some outdated or irrelevant content on your site. Figure out what’s most important to your business and what you want your potential clients to be able to find, or not find.
  3. Audit Your Own Intake Process: If you’ve utilized CallRail’s recording capabilities, now is a great time to go back and listen to how your staff handles your inbound calls. If you don’t record calls, go through your front desk’s process or list of questions they use to qualify a new lead. Are there things missing from the list? Things that could be added?
  4. Work on Your Social Media Presence: With so many people at home and on their computers, you should come up with other ways to get in front of people. While social sites may not be the best converting marketing channel, it does help with your local brand exposure. It’s also a great way to build trust with members of your community. We’ve already seen a lot of really great stories come out over the past couple of weeks of local businesses helping their community through these hard times.
  5. Get Involved: If you’re able, use your legal expertise to help those who have legal questions. If you’re an employment attorney, many people are unsure if they qualify for unemployment. Even if you can’t help the person now, they may need your services in the future and will turn to you.
  6. Go Digital: For those of you still using snail mail and handwritten documents, switch over to something like DocuSign. Move all of your files off of your hard drive and on to the cloud. You can also embrace video conferencing and invest in a good webcam and microphone.
  7. Email Campaigns: Use that long list of emails you have from people filling out your website’s contact form and create drip email campaigns to hit people now while they’re doing research on potential lawyers.
  8. Create a Marketing Plan: For some, marketing is one of the last things you think about when it come to your business. Think about where you’d like to be in the next year, 5 years, or 10 years, and start planning what you need to do to get there. There’s also a lot of really great blog content out there that’s designed specifically for lawyers and their marketing…hint, hint.
  9. Watch Webinars: Use this time to learn something that can help your business later on. There are plenty of tools and marketing agencies putting on more webinars than normal.
  10. Attend a Virtual Conference: A lot of conferences have had to move to a virtual platform, including ours, but are still covering the same topics they would have at their physical events. Instead of paying a couple thousand dollars to attend a conference far away, spend a few hundred to get the same great information, but from the comfort of your own home.

Even though things are uncertain at the moment, you can use this time to do all the things you never had time to do before, and set yourself up for success once everything blows over.

If you’re interested in getting an experts opinion on how you should be handling your law firm’s business and marketing, give us a call.

 

 

Should Law Firms Pause Ads During Coronavirus?

With the worldwide spread of COVID-19, we are truly in tumultuous times. Businesses are attempting to operate remotely, fine dining restaurants are becoming drive through burger joints, and people are being forced to shelter in place across the country. This is affecting absolutely everyone in one way or another, and nobody knows when things might return to normal.

Law firms are in a confusing position. Attorney fees may be seen as a luxury, as many people are losing their jobs and struggling to pay rent. However, the need for legal assistance is not going away, and people stuck at home are turning towards the internet for entertainment, news, and research. So how should law firms adapt? Should you continue advertising? Should you increase ad spend? Change campaign strategies? Test new platforms?

In the word’s of every great marketer, “It depends.”

Why Firms Should Stop Advertising Right Now

Mockingbird always puts our clients’ best interests first. Good or bad, we tell it like it is. Yes we get paid on a percent of ad spend, but we’ll never keep campaigns running that don’t make sense for your firm.

If your firm has the any of the following symptoms, you should stop advertising immediately:

  • You can’t afford to pay your employees.
  • You can’t afford to pay basic utilities.
  • You can’t accept inbound calls.
  • You can’t handle cases effectively while working remotely.
  • Your campaign’s cost per acquisition (CPA) is way too high.

The purpose of (good) advertising is to deliver leads, but there is a time delay as to when you might see a return. If your firm is struggling to pay for the basics, move your budget from your Marketing department to HR.

Why Firms Should Absolutely Keep Advertising

In a time where leads may be slow, don’t make it worse by turning off campaigns that deliver leads. Volume may be down, but you need to think hard before panicking and cutting budgets. In certain cases, you may want to shift budgets from Search to Remarketing or Display. Under certain circumstances, now may be a great time to actually increase ad spend.

If any of the following applies to your firm, you should probably keep your campaigns running:

  • Your firm is setup to work remotely (handle intake, and case work).
  • You have enough cash on hand to treat advertising like a long(er) term investment.
  • You practice Bankruptcy, Employment, or Divorce, and expect an uptick in business (think about doubling down here).
  • Your campaigns are delivering a strong cost per acquisition (CPA).
  • Your campaigns continue to perform (watch them closely).
  • Other firms are pausing ads, making the auction less competitive and cheaper.
  • People are spending more time on Facebook and Youtube (read: ad delivery platforms).
  • More people are watching TV, so your TV commercials cost the same but have increased visibility.

Things That Don’t Matter, and Why

  • Courts are closed –> Reset clients’ expectations around timelines.
  • People aren’t searching as much –> Be available to those who are looking for help.
  • People think we’re closed –> Add “we’re open” messaging to your site, your GMB description, and post on social.
  • We need clients to sign papers –> Use DocuSign.
  • I can’t talk to my cowkorkers like normal –> Install Slack, or Google Hangouts Meet, or Zoom.

So Really, It Depends…

There is no right answer as to how ALL law firms should adapt to changes brought by COVID-19. Take a very close look at YOUR firm’s current situation, and evaluate. It’s not necessarily about if ads are getting cheaper, or more expensive, or if there’s less volume. The argument for “why advertise” is still the same. The market has changed dramatically, people may take longer to reach out, and you should always make sure campaigns meet CPA goals, but first things first. Are you prepared to continue operating? Can you pay your employees? Can you answer the phone? Figure that out, and then think about how to continue signing clients.

The Difference Between a Lead and a Conversion (and Why You’re Responsible for the Latter)

A lot of digital marketers talk about the importance of leads and conversions. We’re no exception. We often even use the terms interchangeably. This is incorrect.

Leads and conversions are actually two very different metrics. They are the difference between someone asking a store clerk for help and someone actually purchasing something. By using them interchangeably proper credit for business growth or stagnation cannot be given. 

 

Leads

Leads refer to when a consumer interacts with the website. This can be in the form of a phone call, form fill, message, or usage of a chat feature. Some marketers consider interacting with X number of pages a lead; leads can be surprisingly subjective.

As a marketing firm, we are responsible for increasing leads. We want to get people to your website and to call your firm. We will do this by running ads, improving your website, and making contact forms and chats accessible. 

 

Conversions

Conversions are when a consumer actually turns into a client. This means they got in contact with your firm and scheduled an appointment. It is direct business.

Your firm is responsible for increasing conversions. If we have done our job and increased leads, it’s now up to you to turn the leads into clients. We can’t answer your phones for you and we can’t provide legal advice during your lead’s free consultation. While increased conversions are an indicator of a successful marketing strategy, it’s a team effort. You owe it to your intake department for your growing client base.

 

When This Knowledge Comes in Handy

For the most part, the difference between leads and conversions is pretty semantic. If your account executive says their campaign resulted in increased conversions, chances are the campaign resulted in increased leads which later led to increased conversions. 

Alternatively, if you’re in the market for an agency and a salesperson talks about how much they increased conversions for a firm, ask what they consider a conversion. They might skirt the question. Maybe they’ll surprise you and say that they consider new clients conversions, in which case they would be correct. If they say they consider using a chat feature a conversion, dig a bit deeper. Sure it might be an innocent error, but it’s always good to be sure you can trust your agency. Don’t waste your money on a firm that’s pulling one over on you.

The Role of Privacy in Digital Marketing in 2020

Privacy is an increasingly relevant issue in the marketing industry as technology gets more advanced and workarounds for data compliance get smarter by the day. So where are we and how did we get here? Are we at the point where corporations know more about us than we do? Is Mockingbird one of those corporations?

 

The short answer to that last question is no, we don’t have data on millions of individuals. While we can see details about the people who visit our site, we can’t actually determine much about them from their location and device type. That is, unless there’s only one person in Billings, Montana with a Samsung Galaxy S8, in which case, hi to that one person. 

 

Of course, privacy is a lot more complicated than that. Mockingbird specifically might not have data on individuals, but a lot of companies do. It’s easier to do targeted advertising when you know exactly who you’re targeting. 

 

How to Know Who You Are Targeting

What Are Cookies

The most common way to figure out who to target is by cookies. Cookies are pieces of software that get downloaded onto the user’s browser or hard drive (depending on the type of cookie) and can provide information on the user’s habits. This means that cookies are used to keep things in your shopping cart when you’re browsing an online store, but it also means that Google knows a lot about you just through the websites you have visited. Google then uses that information to assist advertisers in targeting you specifically. 

 

You might have noticed that more and more websites are giving notice to their users that they use cookies, and to continue on the site you need to accept cookies into your life. This is largely a state by state legislative change, where some states are now requiring sites to inform their users of the use of cookies, so sites often find it easier to notify all users despite their location. 

 

Privacy protection legislation is attempting to crackdown on Cambridge Analytica level data sharing, but legislators are hardly up to the task of keeping up with developers. Sidestepping privacy legislation is almost its own branch of black hat marketing at this point, and should be avoided. Following the rules and respecting privacy is the best way to go for legal and ethical reasons.

 

How Do Cookies Track Users

When a user visits a site, a cookie is placed on their browser or hard drive. After they leave the site, the cookie is still there. If they return to the site, the cookie can tell the website that it’s the same user as before. If you want to see the type of information Google will provide about a single user, here’s a screenshot from Google Analytics:

As you can see the user isn’t identified, only the pages they visited and where they decided to convert. While Google will provide general information about demographics (percentage users male and female, number of users from specific locations, etc), they do not include this in user-specific info. We can see specific user paths, see which paths work best for conversions, but we can’t see how these paths relate to where the user is from or what their interests are. 

 

Will Marketers Jump On Any Opportunity to Invade Privacy?

I mean, probably. Wherever there’s the opportunity to better sell to people, marketers will utilize it. Users are the commodity, and it forces marketers into an ethical pickle to think of their commodity as people. I would like to add a disclaimer here that Mockingbird is not interested in selling user’s data and are committed to privacy for both users and our clients. While there will always be those willing to do whatever it takes to profit, there are also those who will stand their ground for what they believe in.

 

This is where Google can be considered relatively…good? It’s no doubt that Google knows more about who we are as individuals than we probably do; their data runs deep. But they also try to limit the access their advertising customers have to user data. They limit how many times advertisers can market to a single person in a day, and they limit how targeted those ad campaigns can be. They have restrictions for what can be in ads, and prohibit false information. Compared to a site like Facebook, Google is amazing, but that really isn’t a very high bar.

 

So What Do I Tell My Paranoid Relative Who Thinks Their Microwave is Recording Them?

Well, tell them not to have private discussions in front of their microwave if they’re so worried about that. There’s plenty to be worried about when it comes to internet privacy, but the ads for shoes probably shouldn’t be top of mind.

Responsive Ads Might Be Your Best Option

Google Ads offers a variety of ad options, but none might be better for small businesses than Responsive Ads, both search and display. We might be shooting ourselves in the foot here, but the reason I’m recommending these ads is because of their lack of a need for a marketing agency. Business owners can run them without needing in-depth knowledge of marketing, advertising, graphic design, or copywriting. 

 

How They Work

Responsive Ads work by taking pre-written headlines, body texts, and the URL of the page. For display ads, you will need a few high-quality photos as well. It then mixes and matches them to find which work best across their wide network. This means it only needs as much skill as it takes to come up with ten pieces of short text. 

 

Where Display Ads are Displayed

Google Display Ads are displayed on the Google Display Network (GDN). The GDN is made up of sites that run Google Ads in a variety of forms, and you can control targeting based on audience and website. The ads can show up as banners that show up in the lower third of videos, banners at the tops of pages, and any other way Google sees fit. 

 

Where Search Ads are Shown

Responsive Search Ads appear alongside all other search ads at the top and bottom of search results. Similar to display ads, you can target based on audience interests, location, and certain demographics (age, gender). 

 

How the Bidding Works

Google Ads’ bidding system works by giving the spot to the highest bidder, but for only $0.01 more than the second-highest bidder’s bid. This generally awards risk-takers, or those willing to invest high amounts in ad spend. This also tends to work in favor of larger competitors in the area who have more to spend, so it can sometimes be difficult to get your first choice keywords. In a market as competitive as legal, experience with the Google Ads bidding experience is definitely an asset. This is why marketing agencies are still relevant, even if you can make your own ads.

 

Other Things to Consider When Managing Your Ads

If you really do want to run your own ad campaigns there are a number of things you will have to think about and decide on. These include ad extensions, call tracking numbers, time restrictions, and further targeting. While marketing agencies such as Mockingbird have experience with this, you too will gain experience. If you truly believe you are ready to take your advertising in your own hands, all the power to you. Go, be free.